Day 4: A time when you were very afraid

Friday, September 06, 2013


Day 4: A story about a time you were very afraid. 

I don't think I get scared very often (aside from the typical knee-jerk reactions we all have to things like scary movies, haunted houses and getting sneak-attacked by your husband while you're in the shower). I'm too anxious to ever be truly afraid. When something scary happens to me, it usually provokes feelings of extreme panic (and subsequent bathroom issues) rather than actual fear. In fact, I can't really tell the difference between being scared and nervous anymore.

However, I can recall one certain experience from my junior year of high school that made my palms so sweaty and skyrocketed my heart rate so high, I was likely to drop dead at any moment. I really don't know if I have ever been that afraid in my entire life. It was a fear of not knowing.

I got pulled out of one of my morning classes on a sunny spring day and was told to report to the attendance office. My best friend and I were both enrolled in a first period Radio and TV class, and we occasionally took advantage of working on projects in the community by using it as an excuse to duck out for McDonald's breakfast. So that day I was fairly certain that my love-of-greasy-food truancy was finally coming back to bite me in the butt. (Although it was common knowledge that my teacher didn't notice that 3/4 of his class class was missing all the time. That's not a reflection on us kids so much as its a reflection on the faculty's complete and utter disregard for caring.)

The receptionist had a grim expression on her face when I walked through the door. Yup, I was definitely in trouble.

"A car is waiting for you at the front of the school. They're going to drive you to the hospital," she said somberly as she scribbled a hall pass for me.

Um, beg pardon? "What do you mean someone's going to drive me to the hospital?" I asked, incredulous. (Not to mention I was 17 and had my own car on campus. I was perfectly capable of driving myself anywhere.)

She looked at me over the top of her bifocals and her tone was very hard to read. I couldn't tell is she was trying to be calm so I would stay calm, or if she was just a super rude, insensitive human being. "It's your mother. She's in the emergency room and you need to get there right away."

You can understand my emotional response: "WHAT DO YOU MEAN MY MOTHER IS IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM? WHAT HAPPENED? IS SHE OKAY?"

"You just need to go to the hospital," she replied curtly.

"IS SHE OKAY?" I repeated.

"We can't tell you that," was her response.

To a 16 year-old, that answer meant only one possible thing: My mom was dead.

That's when things got intense. I was summoned to the attendance office in the middle of a class period and told I was to be chauffeured to the hospital because my mother was in the emergency room with zero indication of her status. Not to mention the messenger delivering the news had the tact and bedside manner of an a$$hole.

"IS SHE OKAY?" I repeated one more time, hoping the desperation in my voice would melt this curmudgeon's heart just enough to let me know if my mommy was still walking this earth.
 
"Just go to the hospital."

I don't know who this woman is, I can't remember her name, but I will forever hold a grudge against her for her blatant insensitivity towards me. If you can't show compassion for a student, especially a student who may be dealing with a potential family crisis, you probably shouldn't work in the school system.

Passionately hating this woman, I reserved my tears for the hallway. As I walked towards the front of the school, my best friend, bless her heart, came rushing to my side. Best friends are intuitive and I don't know how or why she convinced our teacher that she needed to check on me, but I'm still thankful to this day that she did. She clutched my arm and helped keep me upright as I sobbed all the way down the hallway.

I'm pretty sure I was crying so loud and hard, another teacher slammed her classroom door to drown me out.

My best friend couldn't come with me to the hospital, so I rode in the back of a white van all by myself. The driver wasn't all that friendly and I had no idea if they were associated with the school or the hospital. The way people were treating me started to make my question everything I believed about human sensitivity. Weren't people usually nauseatingly (and sometimes offensively) nice to you when they had bad news? Now I was seriously starting to starting to think that the meaner people acted towards you, the worse the news.

It's hard to talk about traumatic or terrifying situations without coming across as super melodramatic. "It was the scariest thing ever happened to me!" just doesn't do situations like these justice. I spent about 30 minutes hanging in a precarious state of torment, knowing the news I was about to receive could potentially alter the entire course of my life. That's some pretty heavy material for a teenager at 10:30 in the morning.

When I arrived at the doors to the emergency room, I didn't even bother saying "thanks" or "goodbye" to the driver of the van. During this entire ordeal, I was thoroughly convinced that I hated the world and everyone in it.

I was fearful about the future that was about to be determined for me. It was a crippling fear that briefly arrested my stampede to the front desk. I almost wanted to linger in the uncertainty for a few more minutes because the torture of not knowing actually felt more tolerable than finding out my world had shattered.

Thank the good Lord for hospital staff. I was greeted by the sweetest, most genuinely nice receptionist in the history of emergency room receptionists.

"I was told to come here because of my mom," I blurted out tearfully. The receptionist took one look at my pinched, red face and knew that I was having a rough day. She knew exactly who I was.

"Honey," she said gently. "Your mom is just fine. She developed some severe chest pains and came right to us in case she was having a heart attack. Luckily it's just stress and she is resting now, but she was asking for you."

Those were probably the sweetest words I've ever heard. I walked into the area where my mom was being observed and I can honestly say, I've never been more happy to see her in my entire life.

When I relayed the story to my mom, she was furious with the school staff for how they treated me, but the second I knew my mom was okay and that I wasn't an orphan, I instantly forgave all previous grievances I had with the Devil Woman in the attendance office. As mad as I was and as scared as I had been, knowing my mom was okay suddenly made it all seem like it didn't matter.

How do you deal with fear?

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